Skin cancer and sunscreen

Topics, What You Should Know

It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is thought to be the major risk factor. The most common source of UV rays is sunlight, where UVA and UVB rays can cause the skin to prematurely age, to form of wrinkles and age spots, and to sunburn.  

Have you considered getting a base tan to reduce your risk for sunburn? Think again. Tanning beds are not safer than the sun. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires warning labels on all indoor tanning equipment, while tanning beds have been banned in Brazil and Australia. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, just ONE indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma by 29%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and melanoma by 20%. A self-tanning lotion is a better option if you want to look tan.

Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer by blocking harmful UV rays from the sun. Be sure to select a sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or higher that offers broad-spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and one that is water resistant. 

Top 5 Sunscreen Tips

1. Wear it every day. The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round - even on cloudy days and in the winter. Apply at least 15 minutes before going outside.

2. A little doesn’t go a long way. Apply enough sunscreen to fully cover your body. Most adults need about 1 ounce or enough to fill a shot glass.

3. Think about the areas most exposed to the sun. Be sure to adequately cover your nose, ears, lips, back of neck and tops of your feet.

4. Reapply. Sunscreens should be reapplied approximately every two hours when outdoors, and after swimming or sweating.

5. Along with sunscreen use, practice sun avoidance. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Remember that snow, sand, or water will reflect the sun’s rays and can increase your chances of sunburn. Seek shade when possible. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and look for clothing with a UV protection factor (UPF).

What about children? The FDA approves the use of sunscreen for children over six months old. For children under six months, keep your baby in the shade as much as possible. Dress the baby in clothing that covers and protects their sensitive skin, including a hat. For children over six months of age, select a product for children and test it on the child’s wrist before using. If your child develops skin irritation, choose another brand. 

What is the best type of sunscreen? The one that you will use every time you go outside! If you have sensitive skin, as your doctor or dermatologist for a recommendation.